Part 1: Dairy
Adopting a vegan diet can lead to feeling better physically and mentally but often it can leave you feeling overwhelmed as to what to eat. Through this series you'll be introduced to new ingredients to replace animal products and veganize your favorite foods . This week we will start with one of the two of the most challenging items to substitute out are dairy products, the second being eggs.
- Milk: There is such a huge variety of non-dairy milk options in the stores today it can get confusing as to what is "the best". To be honest there really isn't one that is better than the other overall, it really comes down to how your are using it. Unsweetened almond, hemp, soy, coconut and rice milks are wonderful in baked goods. For sauces try an unsweetened almond, rice or soy milk.
Smoothies and cereals work well with plain or vanilla version of almond, hemp, soy, coconut and rice milk work really well. As for coffee, try a non-dairy creamer or soy, coconut or hazelnut milks which are thicker in consistency (tip: add the creamer/non-dairy milk to your mug before adding the hot coffee to help avoid curdling).
Today you can find soy, rice, hemp, almond, hazelnut, coconut, rice milk and even flax and oat milks in most grocery stores and health food markets. Take sometime to try a variety of brands and types of milk to really find that perfect dairy-free milk for you.
- Cheese: Similar to non-dairy milk there are a variety of options when it comes to vegan cheeses from cream cheese to shredded to blocks. These non-dairy cheeses can be substituted in most any of your favorite dishes such as vegan cheese slices for grilled cheese, shredded vegan cheese for nachos or slather your favorite bagel with vegan cream cheese.
In addition to the packaged vegan cheese options you can make your own cheese sauces perfect for making a queso sauce or for mac and cheese by using non-dairy milk and nutritional yeast, a deactivated yeast that has a cheesy nutty flavor.
For ricotta you can find a number of recipes that start with a base of firm tofu, spices, lemon juice and nutritional yeast as a base; this works wonderfully in a vegan lasagna. Lastly, cashews and macadamia nuts that have been soaked blended with herbs and spices make a great cheese spread or can be thinned with non-dairy milk or water to make a sauce. One thing to keep in mind when choosing a vegan cheese is that not every non-dairy cheese is vegan, some contain casein a milk protein, so be sure to check the ingredients if the package isn’t labeled vegan.
- Butter and Sour Cream: Vegan butter and margarine can be easily be found at any grocery market today, you may even already be using one. For a real butter taste and for baking the best option is Earth Balance buttery spread which can be found in tubs or spreads, it has the most butter like taste and consistency.
As for margarines many are vegan but like non-dairy cheeses make sure to read the ingredients and look for things like milk fat, casein and for brands that advertise that their margarine has omega-3’s look out for fish oil.
Vegan sour cream can be found in many grocery stores and in almost all natural food stores. You can use vegan sour cream just as you would in any other recipe such as to top a baked potato, nachos or to make your favorite sour cream based dip. If you’re feeling ambitious you can find recipes to make your own vegan sour cream online and in a number of vegan cookbooks.
Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Dip
This is my healthy vegan twist on a traditional dip usually made with cream cheese, sour cream and topped with shredded cheese.
Serve this at your next party or bring to your next potluck.
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 cups baby spinach
- 1 (6oz) jar of marinated artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
- 10 sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil, sliced
- 1 (14oz) can of navy beans or cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/3 cup vegetable broth
- salt and pepper
- 2-3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1. In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat; add in the onion and cook for 5-7 minutes until soft. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the spinach and cook until wilted. Remove from the stove and place in a bowl; set to the side.
2. In a food processor or blender process the beans with the vegetable broth until smooth.
3. To the processor add the spinach, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, and nutritional yeast; pulse 4-5 times to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Place in a medium oven safe dish, cover and then you place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight to achieve the best flavor.
When ready to cook preheat oven to 400F.
1.Bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes until edges are browned and bubbly.
2. Serve with vegetable sticks, pita or crackers.